I can see it in my own life, the days I’m content, but also the days my eyes are raw, when I can’t seem to drag myself to the water’s edge. My thirst isn’t great enough.
There’s nothing to push me to God on those days.
The waist-deep water was clear to my toes, and I felt its cool cut clear to my soul.
And all I could think was … how do I get more of this in my life.
That week in the Middle East, the sun had baked our building like a piece of baklava. We’d been putting wet washcloths in the freezer, getting them out just before bedtime and going to sleep on top of our beds with them tucked behind our necks and under our legs.
And in the middle of the night, when I’d wake up in the melted-washcloth puddles, I’d walk to the shower, spray my arms and legs down with water and go back to bed without drying off. It was water that had been simmering in the water tank on the roof all day as the temperatures soared above 100 degrees. But it was better than nothing.
I loved that place. But it was hot, y’all.
It’s safe to say we hadn’t slept great the morning we woke up early to road trip to Wadi Mujib, an oasis with a cold, clear stream in the rocky Jordanian desert. The stream starts with a roaring, tumbling waterfall and runs through a crevice in steep canyon walls until it hits the warm, salty Dead Sea, and our friend Maurie told us it was one of her favorite places she’s ever been.
But it had nothing for me that morning.
My eyes felt salty when I met Abi in the sweltering hallway between our bedrooms.
“I feel like I haven’t slept in days.”
Neither of us felt like dragging ourselves across the desert. We each wanted to fall back into our oven-of-a-bedroom and toss and turn in hopes it’d eventually feel better.
We changed our minds a couple of times.
We ended up in the car with our friends.
And I couldn’t be more glad we did.
It kinda changed our lives.
When you visit Wadi Mujib, you kind of drop from a staircase above the stream into the rift in the rocks and land in the calm where the water lulls before it moves on to join the sea. Then — all strapped up in a life jacket they provide — you work your way upward to the source. Like a salmon, you wade against the stream with water sometimes waist deep, sometimes ankle deep, sometimes pouring over huge rocks that you have to use a rope to pull yourself up over.
We. Were. Ready.
We might’ve been reluctant to leave our sun-baked apartment, but once the water was in sight, we were all coming in hot. Where the stream pooled at the base of the crack in the mountain, we hit it at full tilt.
We didn’t care that we probably shouldn’t be drawing that much attention to ourselves.
We’d been craving this for what felt like a thousand dry, hot months.
And because of that, it was one of my favorite days of my life.
In the middle of the night the other night, I was lying awake, eyes salty, brain unable to rest, heart regretting a thousand things.
I wished I’d spent more time in the Word that day, that week. I wished I hadn’t failed that friend so badly. I wished I’d been a more centered version of myself than I had been.
I’d tried hard at things, to fix them, to love well, to meet needs.
I’d failed miserably.
I wished an appetite for God would’ve won the day.
But it hadn’t.
Instead, salty eyelids were scraping across dry eyes, and a dry heart was keeping my anxious brain awake.
And I was plotting how to fix the things I’d messed up, tossing and turning, and scrolling Twitter. At 3 a.m., I landed on an old, retweeted post from John Piper called “Serve God With Your Thirst,” and I opened it. And Wadi Mujib appeared out of the desert in his words:
God is a mountain spring, not a watering trough. A mountain spring is self-replenishing. It constantly overflows and supplies others. But a watering trough needs to be filled with a pump or bucket brigade.
If you want to glorify the worth of a watering trough you work hard to keep it full and useful. But if you want to glorify the worth of a spring you do it by getting down on your hands and knees and drinking to your heart’s satisfaction, until you have the refreshment and strength to go back down in the valley and tell people what you’ve found.
My hope as a desperate sinner hangs on this biblical truth: that God is the kind of God who will be pleased with the one thing I have to offer — my thirst. That is why the sovereign freedom and self-sufficiency of God are so precious to me: they are the foundation of my hope that God is delighted not by the resourcefulness of bucket brigades, but by the bending down of broken sinners to drink at the fountain of grace.
The day I hit the water at Wadi Mujib, I threw myself in with abandon, laughed harder than I’d laughed in ages, ran underneath the waterfall at the top like a kid and then floated on my back all the way back to the base like I didn’t have a care in the world.
I had nothing but thirst, and I found nothing but wonder.
And I almost didn’t go. Trying to sleep in a baking hot room sounded better in the moment.
And it almost won.
John Piper also wrote that if you don’t feel strong desire for God, it’s not because you’ve drunk deeply and are satisfied. “It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”
I can see it in my own life, the days I’m content, but also the days my eyes are raw, I can’t seem to drag myself to the water’s edge. My thirst isn’t great enough.
There’s nothing to push me to God on those days.
I’ve let my desires turn to lesser things. I’ve numbed those desires with lesser objects.
As thirsty as I am, I’ve got no thirst left to give Him.
It makes passages like Psalm 42:1 ring dull in my heart. “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”
It’s not a thirst that comes on its own. It might be pricked by things — like the words of Maurie saying it’s the best thing ever, trust me. But in the end, I have to choose to go to the water’s edge. I have to choose to dive in His Word. I have to choose to stop dulling the thirst and give it to Him, just like it is, all of it. I have to let the thirst ache. I have to let Him draw me in.
It’s there that my thirst comes alive.
When I plunge.
It’s where hope begins. Joy, peace too.
And where they stay.
“I Don’t Wait Anymore” the book, now at Barnes & Noble and other retailers. Check it out here.
It’s the story of how He drew me to thirst.
Throw yourself in. He’s waiting.
So is His story for you.